Thinking about using the iconic Hollywood sign as a way to promote your business? Better think again. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce not only owns a trademark registration for the landmark sign, but owns about a half a dozen trademark registrations relating to the Hollywood icon. Recently, a New York ad agency called “The Brooklyn Brotherss” altered a photo of the Hollywood sign to include the letters BB in front of the word Hollywood in an effort to promote their new venture. (Click here to see related The Hollywood Reporter article.)
The trademark attorney for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce quickly responded with a cease-and-desist letter. You might expect such a quick response from the owners of a high-profile trademark registration. Given the popularity and appeal of the sign, it’s no wonder the Chamber vigilantly monitors for trademark infringement to protect its trademarks against dilution and genericization.
It’s not just the use of the actual Hollywood sign that they are protecting under their trademark registrations. They also monitor for trade dress violations for infringing uses that may not fall under a trademark registration. For example, an infringer might use the familiar Hollywood Hills backdrop and a similar sign orientation with a different word. So it wouldn’t be a literal infringement of a trademark registration, but rather infringing on the look and feel of the marks background. The Hollywood Reporter article cites “X Games” use of “X Games X” set up to look like the Hollywood sign. “X Games X” does not infringe the Hollywood sign trademark registration, but using it in conjunction with the identifiable backdrop may infringe related trade dress of cause dilution. X Games was charged a licensing fee for such use.
A good trademark attorney can help you capitalize on your brand and help you increase the ROI on your brand investment. The Brooklyn Brothers story reinforces the idea that trademarks are not limited to the usual logos and slogans that we think of when it comes to trademarks. Trademarks are available for architecture, furniture designs, sounds, and even outdoor signs like the Hollywood sign. If it can act as a source identifier to consumers, it is likely available for trademark protection. A good trademark attorney can help you evaluate your brand portfolio and determine whether you should consider filing a trademark registration application for any of your product source identifiers.
Trademark protection can be vital to a successful business. You can spend significant time and money to build a brand, but if the brand is not properly protected, you may find yourself in lots of trouble. Please consult a trademark attorney who can help you understand the trademark process and the numerous issues that can arise when dealing with trademarks and branding.